Bipolar Disorder and Impulsivity


Living with someone who has bipolar disorder when they are not in an episode is just like living with someone who does not have the disorder (as long as they are taking their medication). However, when they go into a manic episode, you may have to deal with things like impulsivity.

Impulsivity involves performing some type of action which is spontaneous on the part of the person. In other words, they give no thought to the consequences of their actions.

For example, someone may choose to gamble on an impulse. He gives no thought to the consequences. He may even think to himself, "This is legal, there's no harm to it." Yet, the next thing he knows, his impulsivity has turned to compulsion, and he has lost all his money – all because he got no thought to his impulse and he acted on it. In other words, he did not think ahead.

Other examples of impulsive behaviors can include (but are not limited to) the following:

• Reckless driving (speeding, etc.)
• Excessive spending
• Risky sexual behavior
• Substance abuse
• Anger, rage, and / or violence
• Abuse
• Self-injury
• Suicidal tendencies or acts
Poor choices
• Rash decisions
• Self actions
• Risk-taking behaviors

Some of these behaviors in and of them are not illegal, dangerous, or harmful; however, other behaviors, especially when taken to the extreme, are not only harmful to your loved one, but to you and others as well.

When your loved one is acting impulsively, as stated earlier, they are giving no thought to their action, or to its consequences. They are acting selfishly, thinking only of the pleasure of the moment. That's the problem with impulsivity – it sneaks up on you and, before you know it, it's over, and you are facing its consequences.

Impulsive actions, many times, are a result of a bipolar manic episode. They have cost many people with bipolar disorder their jobs, families, homes, friends, marriages, reputations, and more. For some people with the disorder, it has cost them everything they held dear.

The only way to control impulsivity is by controlling the mania, and that is through medication.